Avatar (2009)

Crazy Heart (2009)

The Lovely Bones (2009)

Minority Report (2002)

The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

So many DVDs … so few column inches. Some highlights:

It’s here: James Cameron’s sci-fi behemoth hit, Avatar, a film that deserves probably 90% of the ecstatic praise and blistering criticism it has received. From the immoderate beauty of its alien world to the dullness of the characters and dialogue, from the liberal white guilt to the masterfully choreographed action sequences, from the thoughtful xenobiology to the New Age ecospirituality, it’s a flawed but remarkable film that deserves critical viewing.

Jeff Bridges’ Oscar-winning performance highlights Crazy Heart, one of my favorite films of 2009. Scott Cooper’s tale of self-destruction and second chances stars Bridges as country singer “Bad” Blake, a hard-drinking has-been who plays small gigs, resents the success of an old protégé, and romances a pretty small-town reporter prone to bad decisions about men. Despite Blake’s downward spiral, the door to redemption remains open — but actions have consequences that can’t always be undone.

One to skip: Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones has been widely ridiculed for its trippy 1970s’ album-cover view of the afterlife, but the real problem is life on earth. The story of a small-town girl who is violated and murdered asks us to believe that the obsessed father suspects everyone in town, including an octogenarian in diapers, but not the creepy single guy across the street. Characters aren’t fleshed out enough to make us care, and redemptive uplift, even in heaven, is sadly lacking.

New on Blu-ray, Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report is a rip-roaring sci-fi thriller touching on issues of moral and social freedom. Set less than a half century in the future, the film takes place in a fascinatingly imagined world in which magnetically powered cars and ubiquitous retinal scanning technology coexist with urban decay and black-market organ transplantation. Tom Cruise stars as a cop in an elite “pre-crime” unit that uses precognition to prevent crimes before they happen.

Returning to DVD, The Great Mouse Detective is one of the more enjoyable films of Disney’s post-Walt doldrums, a better cousin to The Rescuers and Oliver & Company. After decades of helping human heroines in distress, this time the mice take over completely. Sherlock Holmes is the offscreen and on-screen inspiration for Basil of Baker Street, who matches wits with the villainous Ratigan (Vincent Price!) in Victorian London.

Content advisory: Avatar: Intense sci-fi violence; profanity and crude language; stylized ethnographic partial nudity; references to mating and an implied encounter; pervasive New-Age style paganism. Mature viewing. Crazy Heart: Recurring obscene, profane and crass language; a couple of brief nonmarital bedroom scenes (no nudity, but one scene is unnecessarily explicit); heavy drinking, drunkenness, vomiting, etc. Mature viewing. Minority Report: Ordinary and sci-fi violence; fleeting sexual situations (no nudity); illicit drug use; some profanity. Mature viewing. The Great Mouse Detective: Mild animated menace. Okay family viewing.